Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why fix JEE if it’s not broken?

Why fix JEE if it’s not broken?
Ram Krishnaswamy

The changes suggested to reform the JEE may create more problems than they set out to solve.

JEE has stood the test of time for 50 years yet there were some problems “associated with JEE”. A committee was formed on the initiative of Prof Ananth Director of IIT Madras but the final outcome is quite different from what was expected.

JEE has become a national obsession with coaching schools mushrooming all over India and meeting the demand and charging exhorbitant fees and some even have pre selections. These coaching schools which are legitimate in preparing students for JEE, are out of reach for the not so rich but clever students especially from rural India. Hence the IIT Global Free JEE coaching initiative

Senior IIT professors have been complaining that the current crop of students were less creative and more Spartan like drilled into solving numerical problems that help them breeze through a JEE exam. Most often it is the high speed in answering the JEE questions that gave students from coaching schools the edge.

There was a definite need to introduce some form of psychometric evaluation in JEE to separate clever and creative students from the book worms.

Getting rid of the screening test may be good, yet linking JEE with a minimum 60% at the Board exam is not very logical considering we have such a vast range of board exams in India and valuation processes are very strict in some States and very lax in others…so students from some States could have an unfair advantage over others in qualifying for the JEE. Board exams are not a level playing field nationally hence is a very bad recommendation.

To even suggest that the committee looked into JEE induced stress makes one wonder. Why should administrators, government and faculty worry about stress? Afterall once into an IIT it is a pressure cooker anyway !!

The new JEE Stress Buster is a myth. There is increased stress now as 1.Students now have to study harder to score a minimum of 60% in the school Board exams to qualify besides studying for JEE; 2.Students have to study for one more subject for JEE; 3.Eventually coaching schools will have one more subject for coaching with increased revenue — meaning more financial stress for students and parents. So where is the relief in stress?

Does it not make sense to brain storm IIT alumni who have been through the JEE system for 50 years ?

Reforms can be meaningful when we think outside the box. Unfortunately the committees that looked at improving JEE were all inside the box plus may be, have yielded to political pressures as the final outcome bears no resemblance to original recommendations.

Do proposed reforms reduce stress in the highly competitive exam, or reduce the influence of coaching classes, or restore the sanctity of the school system?

How does it improve the quality of students getting into IITs ?

The answer is a BIG ‘NO’ to all questions plus they do not in any way improve the situation for the already disadvantaged poor students from cities and rural India and non English medium schools.

A maximum of two attempts and maximum age 21 years ……Can some one explain why?? What is wrong in some one deciding at age 25 to give JEE a shot? What is wrong in encouraging tenacity to succeed? A student who has tried three times to get into IIT is more likely to be a Bill Gates or a Narayanamurthy in real life.